193: Tsungiriro Rukanda

A mindset focused on delivering results

Welcome to the CFO Club Africa podcast, where we interview leading CFOs from Africa and beyond. CFO Club Africa is a division of the Chartered Institute of Business Accountants, the professional body for business accountants, financial managers and chief financial officers. Go to www.cfoclub.co.za and join our community of accounting and finance executives.

Welcome to this CFO Club Africa podcast, in this podcast series I speak to leading financial professionals and CFOs about their professional journeys, their perspectives on the industry and their perceptions regarding the skills modern financial professionals must have to lead a successful organisation.

My guest today is Tsungiriro Rukanda, she is the Director of Finance and Administration at South Africa Partners, it is a non-profit organisation facilitating collaboration between the United States and South Africa in the areas of health and education. She has been with South Africa Partners since 2019, she has over 15 years of experience within the public, private and non-profit sectors, she is an Associated Chartered Management Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant with CIMA in the UK. She also holds an MBA from GIBS Business School.

Before joining South Africa Partners, she was a Management Accountant at the Aurum Institute, Finance Manager at Enzani Technologies and an accountant at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. Tsungiriro, tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an accountant?

I was born in Zimbabwe, I grew up there and did my undergraduate studies in Zimbabwe, I studied a BCom in finance. When I graduated, there was a lot of unemployment in the country, and I couldn’t get employment in finance, but the revenue authority was hiring accountants at that time. All they needed was somebody who had studied a commercial background. So I applied for that job and I got on-the-job training and, hence, my first job was as an accountant.

In 2008 I relocated to South Africa, and I got a job as an accountant, using the background of my job with the revenue authority.

It was then in that job within the corporate sector that I realised my technical accounting was not sound and I then decided to study CIMA to strengthen my technical skills as an accountant.

You have a really impressive CV with several financial qualifications, you also have an MBA, when did you decide to go the MBA route to supplement your financial qualifications?

That must have been in 2017, just after I qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant with CIMA, I was then thinking of the next steps in terms of my career, and I thought of doing an MBA to consolidate my business experience and get more exposure and more learning.

Let’s talk about South Africa partners, it facilitates collaboration between the United States and South Africa in the areas of health and education, exactly how do you do this?

Initially, South Africa Partners was formed to help fight for equality in the then South Africa and to ensure that South Africans participate in the new democracy. After independence, the founders of the organisation then realised that there was still a gap in terms of access to education and healthcare in previously disadvantaged communities, then they started doing work in the health and education sectors.

Most of the work that they’ve been doing has been in providing care and support to South Africans at risk of contracting HIV and also South Africans living with HIV and Aids.

They have also been working in early childhood development programmes and also increasing capacity of leaders and managers to drive health system transformation in South Africa through sponsorship between local universities and universities and partners in the United States.

Most of our funding comes from the United States, so we get funding from the US government, as well as donors and philanthropists in the US to implement health programmes in South Africa. As an example, of the current programmes that we’re working on is called the Steps 3 Programme, it’s a prevention programme, where we’re working in the correctional services facilities in South Africa, providing HIV screening, HIV prevention through training, access to care, testing and also linking inmates to care and treatment.

Let’s talk about your role as a financial professional and from your CV it’s evident that you have extensive experience in this field. You’ve worked in the public sector, you’ve worked in the private sector, and you’re now involved with a non-profit organisation, are there significant differences between the financial roles in those different sectors?

There are no significant differences between the financial roles. In a non-profit the cause is what a customer is to a corporate, and both non-profit and for-profit organisations are looking for creative and cost-effective ways to meet the cause or to meet the client’s needs. So that’s the biggest similarity between corporate and non-profit. I think one of the main differences would then be the purpose, where your focus in a profit organisation is on delivering value to your shareholders, but in a non-profit your purpose is linked to the cause and the impact that you’re making to the beneficiaries and the communities that you work in.

What are the biggest challenges in your life, what keeps you awake at night?

That’s a difficult one, as a finance professional I think most of the training that I’ve had in the past was mostly focused on the hard skills, on accounting, reporting and so on. But in this role, you realise that the most important skills needed are communication skills, your ability to show empathy, your ability to work with diverse stakeholders and to be a strategic thinker. Those are key to the role but those are also a challenge because those mean different things in different scenarios and you always need to be able to think on your feet.

What do you think are the key skills that a modern finance professional or a CFO must have to be really successful?

I think the role has changed from one needing to be technically competent to one of having a mindset that is focused on delivering results for the organisation.

When you have a mind that is focused on delivering results or goals for the organisation, your mindset around budgeting, around reporting, differs from when you are focused on just reporting.

Communication is definitely a critical skill in this job, and you will find in the non-profit sector, people are not really interested in the numbers per se, but your numbers need to be able to tell a story of the impact of the work that has been done.

You have been working as a financial professional for many years, have your perceptions changed regarding the roles of a financial director or a head of finance over the past few years?

I definitely think so, I think a few years ago we saw CFOs as people whose primary responsibility was mostly financial reporting, compliance, risk management. I think the responsibilities now are more strategic and have to do with the overall managing of the business.

I think there’s even a blurred line between the responsibilities of the CFO and those of the CEO because every business decision has a financial impact.

What books are lying on your bedside table?

My latest read was My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi and right now I am planning to read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. This year I have been reading a lot of self-help books.

CFO Club Africa is affiliated with associations of finance executives in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia and Namibia, and annually hosts an international CFO summit. You have done the work and achieved the CFO title, now join the CFO Club Africa as a finance executive.

Ryk van Niekerk is an award-winning financial journalist with over 20 years' experience. He is Moneyweb’s editor and hosts the Market Commentator podcast and RSG Geldsake, covering the markets, and financial and investment content, joined by CEOs, entrepreneurs, policymakers and others.

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